The slight sense of confusion engendered by the pricing structure kind of follows through onto the Now TV home page. This just features four scrollable ‘rows’ of films, with the top row including most popular Movie Pass Titles, the second row showing the most recent ‘Now on DVD’ Pay & Play titles, and the other two rows going back to the Movie Pass stuff, focussing on Recently Added and Showcase titles.
The layout of this home page - and, indeed, all subsequent pages - is reasonably pretty, but ultimately unfriendly to browsing on account of how few title choices it fits on screen at once thanks to a combination of overlarge images of the titles and a bizarre obsession with ‘white space’ between the different categories. The mix of Pay & Play with Movie Pass content isn’t helpful either.
The key to making the Now TV interface much easier to follow is the Show Me field on the left, with which you can have the interface just show either the Sky Movies Pass or Pay & Play content. This filtering process also stops you from feeling frustrated at the sight of all the titles not available to you in your chosen section (Pay & Play or Movie Pass) of the Now TV service...
To streamline browsing further, titles can be organised via genre or thematic collections such as Dramatic Moments, Blockbusters and Get Animated. There’s a film/actor/director text search tool too, though unfortunately this doesn’t take the sort of ‘predictive’ title list approach you get with Netflix.
It’s not just the current Now TV interface that needs a little work, either. Signing up for the service is also confusing. First up, if, like us, you’re already subscribed to Sky Go, you’re advised not to sign up to Now TV using the same account information. Instead you’re supposed to set up a totally separate account with a different email address.
Of course, it’s unlikely a normal Sky Subscriber would want to sign up for Now TV. But needing a second ID is still a strange idiosyncrasy akin to Apple saying you should have separate IDs for its music and video services.
The other issue is that while filling in the registration forms, no mention is made of the 30-day free trial until right at the very end (after you’ve ‘agreed’ to pay £15 a month and given all your payment details) - even if you entered the sign up process by first clicking the 30 days free trial link at the top of the home page. We felt aggravatingly sure until the very final notification of successful registration appeared that we were in fact going to be paying £15 a month right from the off.
This confusing state of affairs seems certain to put people off from signing up, and so really needs to be fixed.
In finally getting to testing the quality of the Now TV service, we’re limited at the time of writing to viewing on a PC or Mac. A few Android phones can also use the service already, but other delivery ‘vehicles’ aren’t ready yet. Apps for iPhone and iPads are due in August, the Xbox will get an app later in the summer, and NowTV will apparently also be on YouView. PS3 and Roku support is also promised, though as yet not dated.
Trying to get Net TV working on a Mac - or two, actually - immediately threw up a pretty major problem, as all we got when trying to play a film was a black, blank screen.
After a couple of hours of digging around we figured out that the problem was caused by us already having two other devices registered to our Sky ID because of our Sky Go subscription. Taking our Xbox off the device list (which currently restricts you to just two devices) had our main Mac playing Now TV films right away. Thankfully Sky has told us that it intends to double the number of devices Sky ID accounts can use to four in the near future.
To be fair this device limitation issue might not affect many people given that Now TV is aimed at people who don’t already have Sky/Sky Go. But it would still be nice if a message pointing you to the source of the problem appeared, rather than just a thunderously black screen.
It's worth adding here, too, that there seems to be some anecdotal evidence around to suggest that there are other Mac users out there who are struggling to get Now TV to work even after they've sorted out the device registration issues.
Firing up a few films (Thor, Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Captain America and Pulp Fiction) through our Movie Pass, we were surprised not to be given any technical data - aspect ratio, resolution, audio track - about the presentation before it started. But it becomes quickly apparent that while films appear in their original aspect ratios, on PCs and mobile devices they’ll only play back in standard definition with stereo soundtracks. There’s no HD or surround sound.